In preparation for our transition to our service work in a more rural part of Costa Rica, we have been collaborating with professors at the University of Costa Rica in San José who have helped us formulate some great activities and prepare for group work on a variety of health topics. While all have been well worth our time, one stuck out in particular as a charla in which I not only learned a great deal about the subject matter, but also about myself.
One of the hardest things to do in lesson is to simultaneously give accurate and relevant information, while portraying to the group information on how they can effectively share new knowledge with another group. During one morning, we had a presentation from a young professor who has worked with the organization Instituto WEM (based in San José), which works with men to prevent gender-based violence and aggression. This topic can be intimidating or confusing for those who have little experience working on gender-based issues, but the facilitator actually eased many of my own concerns about this.
The first part of this lesson was an ice breaker where we tossed around a ball of yarn and introduced ourselves with an example of something that we enjoy. The facilitator paused here, to remind us that our society creates a network of all the things that we see and people with whom we interact. Then, we deconstructed the web that we had made by sharing a goal and tossed the yarn back. I thought that this icebreaker was interesting because it came in stages; first, small-talk type information, that was not hard to share, and then came the opportunity to share something a little more personal. Still, they were all goals that were easy to come up with, and only as personal as the individual wished. He used this second, goal-oriented stage to remind the group that while the society creates a network of all that we know, it is the responsibility of small groups to deconstruct what we see in order to create change. This lesson was very well-organized, and although the structure was subtle, we were actually able to see that he used the very techniques he was teaching us to facilitate each activity. After giving us some advice on the structure of group activities in which you deconstruct common beliefs, he showed us that we had, in fact, used the same technique to discuss the topic at hand.
Despite connotations that they only work with children, puppets can be used by older people to share personal thoughts, opinions, and experiences with more confidence.
He told us that, since it is often difficult to speak about emotions, people can actually benefit from using puppets (yes, puppets) to transmit their own ideas in a way that limits self-consciousness. He also mentioned a great deal the importance of body language, and that it actually has been shown in studies to be the most important factor in audience participation and engagement in this subject matter. The common perception is that men are more likely to respond to men who talk to them about gender issues, but according to the results of the research that he presented, men were equally responsive to facilitators of both genders, when controlling for factors like body language, confidence, and knowledge of the content.
Feeling a little more confident in this subject matter after the discussion, it seems easier to go on to the next portion of our program.
To hear how it all turns out, stay tuned to the students on our Costa Rica blog!